The Charity Commission was wrong to endorse Ealing Council's planSat 30 Sep 2023
Campaigners opposed to Ealing Council's plan to sell Victoria Hall to a developer are celebrating the court decision.
For seven years, Ealing Council has persistently pursued the sale of their town hall to a hotel developer, despite staunch resistance from local residents. Back in July 2016, the council entered into an agreement to lease the entire site, including Victoria Hall, for a staggering 250-year term.
Victoria Hall is not under the ownership of Ealing Council. This historic hall, constructed in 1893, was funded through public subscriptions and is presently held by a charitable trust.
The charity, Friends of the Victoria Hall, was established in November 2019 with the mission preserving the historic Victoria Hall and allied rooms (charity property) in Ealing Town Hall.
This initiative was driven by the desire to prevent Ealing Council from selling these premises to a hotel developer.
However, in March 2021, the Charity Commission granted permission for the council to take control of and sell the property.
"On 23 April 2021 two local people on behalf of the Friends of the Victoria Hall launched a legal challenge through the Charity Tribunal."
A three-day Charity Tribunal hearing was held from 20-22 February 2023 to determine if the Charity Commission’s support for Ealing Council’s plan was justified.
The Friends of Victoria Hall, represented by appellants Tony Miller and Will French, made their final effort to prevent the Hall's sale to a hotel developer.
The Tribunal verdict, released a 12-page judgment on 21 September 2023, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed rule changes and deemed them inadequate in safeguarding the Charity's interests. The Charity Commission and Ealing Council have been given six months to devise a new scheme in consultation with the two appellants.
The legal judgment mandated the establishment of a "Community Use Protocol" in consultation with Ealing Performance & Arts Centre, Ealing Voice, and the Friends of Victoria Hall. This was deemed necessary because the original objectives of the Trust could not be fulfilled in accordance with the original intent. The judgment also stated that any transaction costs should be borne by the council and not shifted onto the community or the charity.
The Friends of Victoria Hall website says "Since July 2016, Ealing Council has spent £2 million trying to dispose of the Victoria Hall and the Prince's Hall to hotel developers."
So, Ealing Council wasted £2 million by not listening to the residents for 7 years. However, they are likely to present themselves as a responsive Council that eventually considered residents' views after extensive consultation.
The people of Southall have had their fair share of experiences with such dubious dealings, as seen in the sale of Southall Town Hall, the proposed demolition of the Tudor Rose, and the proposed demolition of the Young Adult Centre.
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